The streetcar steamboat Minnehaha, a longtime icon of the Lake Minnetonka community, was officially added to the National Register of Historic Places on Friday, October 29. Administered by the National Park Service, the National Register of Historic Places is the official list of the nation’s historic places worthy of preservation.
“Minnehaha’s listing in the National Register opens up grant opportunities to preserve the boat and gives her the recognition she deserves,” said Tom McCarthy, president of the Museum of Lake Minnetonka, the organization that owns, maintains and operates the vessel.
In 2019, Minnehaha lost access to the ramp where she was launched and hauled out of the water each spring and fall, restricting her ability to be on the lake until a new ramp becomes available. Minnehaha is currently housed in a heated storage facility in Excelsior. Volunteers continue to maintain the vessel on a weekly basis, keeping her ship-shape for her eventual return to Lake Minnetonka.
“The MLM remains committed to returning Minnehaha to the waters of Lake Minnetonka,” said McCarthy, adding that the organization has a newly reconstituted leadership team in place. “While no property on Lake Minnetonka meeting Minnehaha’s unique launch requirements is currently available, we welcome any opportunity to work with public or private partners to secure a site for Minnehaha’s new launch ramp and winter home – both of which will be crucial to getting her back in the water since Minnehaha must be stored indoors during the winter.”
We regret to pass along the news that MLM Hall of Fame member Bob Woodburn passed on April 10th. Bob served as an original board member of the Steamboat Division of the Minnesota Transportation Museum in 1990 and as Secretary until 1996. Bob was actively involved in many aspects of Minnehaha’s restoration – most notably the electrical and mechanical systems. Bob’s work didn’t stop there – he worked on the ribs, planking, and keel/keelson. He was also deeply involved in the engine/boiler/stack and other mechanical projects. Bob oversaw materials acquisition and managed design approval. Simply put, Bob was integral in every aspect of the boat’s restoration. Bob’s service continued through the years following the restoration and his passionate support of Minnehaha never wavered. He was elected into MLM’s Hall of Fame in 2019.
The Board of Directors extends its sincere condolences to the Woodburn family and salutes Bob for all his contributions to the restoration and operation of Minnehaha. His support and encouragement will be greatly missed.
The family plans to announce memorial arrangements at a later date.
Published by THE MUSEUM OF LAKE MINNETONKA …a nonprofit 501(c)(3) corporation P.O. Box 178 | Excelsior, MN 55331 firstname.lastname@example.org (952) 474-2115 (voice messages only)
It is hard to believe that another beautiful season of steamboating has already passed into history. 2019 was the restored Minnehaha’s twenty-fourth year on Lake Minnetonka. Despite less-than-ideal weather on many weekends, ridership was good with about 8,000 passengers sailing aboard Minnehaha from late May to early October. This was only possible because of the persistent support received from the community and the dedication of our 70+ volunteers. The following is a recap of just some of the highlights from the past year.
Per usual, the first part of the year focused on Minnehaha’s winter maintenance. Every Saturday, a group of about ten volunteers met at “the barn” to work on various projects. Work this year included repairing the genset cooling system, replacing drains, repairing seats, and regular painting and wood repair. Thanks to the dedication of our winter maintenance crew, Minnehaha was ready to be launched by mid-May.
One of the most common questions that Minnehaha’s passengers like to ask is if there are plans to raise any of the other streetcar boats from the bottom of Lake Minnetonka. The simple answer is “no.” There are many reasons for this; aside from the logistical and economic obstacles that would have to be overcome, it is also illegal. According to the nonprofit Maritime Heritage Minnesota, shipwrecks at the bottom of any lake in Minnesota are subject to several laws at both the state and federal levels, including the Minnesota Field Archaeology Act (1963), the Minnesota Historic Sites Act (1965), and the Federal Abandoned Shipwrecks Act (1987), among others. These laws prevent shipwrecks from being looted or otherwise disturbed, let alone raised. They were enacted, in part, because submerged resources risk being damaged or destroyed if they are raised without proper care.
Many would be surprised to learn that Minnehaha was indeed raised illegally in 1980. So, how was it allowed to happen? The situation was rather complicated.
Have you ever heard the story about the Excelsior Amusement Park roller coaster being moved to Valleyfair? Or maybe you’ve heard that John Philip Sousa and his band played at Big Island Park. Lake Minnetonka’s history is grand, but some of the tidbits that you’ve likely heard are not true. This fall the MLM started an ongoing series of posts on the Steamboat Minnehaha Facebook page called #MythbusterMonday. The series’ popularity has exceeded all expectations, having reached more than 34,000 people thus far. In case you missed it, here are 10 myths about Lake Minnetonka history that we “busted” in 2019.
Myth #1:Minnehaha and her sister
streetcar boats regularly serviced Big Island Park between 1906 and 1911.
The truth:Minnehaha and the
streetcar boats rarely stopped at Big Island Park. In reality, the park
was primarily serviced by three side-wheeled ferries named Minneapolis
(pictured), Saint Paul, and Minnetonka. Each were originally 108
feet long (later extended to 139 feet) and could carry up to 1,000 passengers.
They were also double-ended so they didn’t have to turn around after each
crossing between Excelsior and the park.
Bonus truth: The three Big Island
ferries only sailed between Excelsior and Big Island Park. While the Saint
Paul and Minnetonka were scrapped sometime after Big Island Park
closed in 1911, the Minneapolis was purposely burned to the waterline
and sunk in 1912.
Earlier this year, the MLM received notice that Minnehaha will no longer be granted access to the privately-owned launch site at 600 West Lake Street, Shorewood after December 31, 2019. The launch site is only used twice a year, once in the spring and once in the fall, for the sole purpose of launching and hauling Minnehaha in and out of the water. Since this is a critical component of Minnehaha’s operation, a new launch site is needed.
Minnehaha is typically launched in the water in May and hauled out in October. While in the water, she is stored at a leased dock slip on Excelsior Bay (687 Excelsior Boulevard, Excelsior). The MLM is guaranteed to keep this slip through 2023.
During the winter months, Minnehaha needs to be stored indoors so that she can be properly preserved and rehabilitated. Minnehaha is currently stored in a large pole barn structure at 140 George Street, Excelsior. This structure is owned by the MLM but sits on land owned by the Hennepin County Regional Railroad Authority.
With Lake Minnetonka currently frozen over, it is hard to believe that another beautiful season of steamboating has already come and gone. 2018 proved to be a strong year for Minnehaha as 10,500 passengers sailed aboard her between early June and mid-October. This would not have been possible without the persistent support received from the community and the dedication of our 75+ volunteers. The following is a recap of just some of the highlights from the past year.
May 5, 2018 was one of the latest ice-out dates ever recorded for Lake Minnetonka. This pushed back the start of Minnehaha’s season by a week, but the extra time was used to finish various winter maintenance projects. The annual meeting was held only a few days later on May 9. At the meeting, Jeff Schott was elected as the MLM’s new president. Mr. Schott replaces Jeff Lambert, who served as president since 2013.
On July 12, 2018, the Museum of Lake Minnetonka lost one of its dearest friends. Jim Ogland was an integral force during Minnehaha’s restoration and served as the restored vessel’s first captain during her lake trials in 1995. A dedicated Lake Minnetonka historian, he passed away peacefully at the age of 87. His full obituary can be viewed here.
MLM Vice President Jim Zimmerman spoke at Jim’s funeral. The following is a transcript of his speech.
“It’s a great personal honor to be able to speak at Jim Ogland’s celebration of life. And what a life we’re celebrating! His was an extraordinary life, exceptionally well lived.
“If you knew Jim well, you know he wore a lot of hats. You will hear a lot about his hats and roles, but I’m here to talk about this hat. It’s a captain’s hat from the steamboat Minnehaha, which was one of Jim’s passions. And he was the very first person to wear this hat.
This article originally appeared in the Wayzata Historical Society newsletter The Telegraph. It has been republished here with permission from the Wayzata Historical Society.
Like many other spots on Lake Minnetonka, the peninsula we know today as Bracketts Point has gone by many different names in its long history. Also known as Promontory Point, Starvation Point, Printers Point, and Orono Point, to name just a few, it was eventually named after its most well-known settler George A. Brackett and his wife Annie Hoit Brackett.
George and Annie Brackett first visited Lake Minnetonka on August 18, 1858 for a picnic and day of fishing and camping with friends. It wasn’t until 1880 that the Bracketts returned to Lake Minnetonka to purchase the peninsula between Browns Bay and Smiths Bay. Mr. and Mrs. Brackett gave it the name Orono Point and built a modest cottage at the site. The name Orono was important to George Brackett, as he had left his home of Orono, Maine to come to Minnesota in 1857. It wasn’t until 1930 that it was renamed Bracketts Point in his honor.